". . . the scholarship records show the widespread practice of awarding the waivers to the children of judges."
--The Times-Picayune

How a Newspaper Uncovered the Secret Diversion of Taxpayer Money Into the Hands of Legislators and Judges

Scholarship Scandal Finale
New Orleans, October 15, 1995

After two years of disclosures about abuses of legislative and mayoral scholarships to Tulane University, we've become numb.

Each new disclosure seems to tar the names of more of our elected officials.

Many have already been tarred - Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, some who were regarded as scrupulously honest and those whose past records seemed slippery.

Now, after nearly two years of legal wrangling, The Times-Picayune has obtained the remaining records of how legislators and mayors granted their tuition waivers. The latest harvest paints a disappointing picture of our public officials.

Disappointing because two mayors who worked hard for New Orleans and ran well-regarded administrations, Moon Landrieu and Dutch Morial, will see their reputations diminished because they gave scholarships to a nephew and a daughter.

Disappointing because so many lawmakers passed over more needy recipients to give their waivers to their children or members of their families or the children of other public officials - benefitting people like Gov. Edwards' pal and supporter, Edmund Reggie, who sent seven relatives to Tulane with 34 years of scholarships provided by eight different legislators.

And disappointing because the scholarship records show the widespread practice of awarding the waivers to the children of judges. Not just obscure judges in distant parish courthouses. Among the beneficiaries of the scholarships are the three children of the state Supreme Court's chief justice, Pascal Calogero.

Mr. Calogero is one of four judges whose children received waivers and who, without disclosing their involvement in the program, went on to sit on the bench while lawyers for The Times-Picayune pressed the newspaper's matter.

Let's briefly review the history of the case.

In 1993, the newspaper filed suit against five New Orleans legislators arguing that they should be forced to obtain their records from Tulane and release them to the public. Tulane, as custodian of the records, had promised to release them to lawmakers who asked.

Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Okla Jones ruled in the newspaper's favor, but the lawmakers appealed. The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with the newspaper and Judge Jones that the records were public, but said the legislators did not have to obtain and release any records they had not kept, in effect forcing the newspaper to sue Tulane to get the documents.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, a setback for the newspaper because it left in place the 4th Circuit ruling. At that point, the courts had ruled that the records were public but it was uncertain how the public could get to see them.

The Times-Picayune sued Tulane twice. The university did not oppose the newspaper but contended that it could release the information only under court order because of the student privacy protections of the Buckley Amendment.

The first suit led to the July release of scholarship nomination forms submitted by current legislators. Those forms disclosed that one of the Supreme Court judges who refused to hear the newspaper's appeal, James Dennis, had a son who benefitted from a tuition waiver. (Justice Dennis was confirmed as a federal judge last month with the backing of Sens. John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston, both of whom benefitted from tuition waivers awarded to their children.)

The second suit led to the disclosure this month of the complete information in the university's possession on the mayoral and legislative scholarship programs. The information shows that Justice Calogero has three sons who received waivers. It also shows that Philip Ciaccio, one of the judges who handled the appeal of the Jones ruling - and relieved the legislators of the order that they get the forms and in turn make them public - had a son who received a scholarship from former Mayor Landrieu.

The information also shows that a son of Civil District Judge Gerald Fedoroff received a tuition waiver from former Mayor Morial. Judge Fedoroff did not disclose this at the time, but it can be said in his defense that he ruled in favor of public disclosure, that the case he handled involved only legislative rather than mayoral scholarships and that as a duty judge, he simply entered an uncontested order in a case assigned to another judge.

While laws on when judges should remove themselves from cases may be vague, it seems a matter of elementary common sense that a judge should recuse himself in a public records case that affects disclosure of information about the judge or his family. By sitting on this case, the three appellate judges achieved no public purpose. Their participation will diminish the people's confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

The release of the latest scholarship records would seem to mark the final disclosure in this shabby affair.

At the urging of Tulane President Eamon Kelly, reforms have been made, chief among them the requirement that scholarship nominees henceforth be disclosed to the public.

But reforms won't be completely effective if the public officials who grant the scholarships do not feel compelled to ensure that all worthy constituents - not just those with connections - have a shot at getting the waivers. And that won't happen unless the voters demand it.

Copyright 1995, The Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation

From: The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 15, 1995.  Section: METRO, Page: B-6 (Editorial).  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

Judge Reggie: A Profile
Reggie Family Scholarships
The Scholarship Scheme
Attempt at Intimidation
Act 43 of 1884
Courting Judges
Judicial Influence
Louisiana Decision